I like to sit around with my family on Thanksgiving, too. The food is phenomenal, the family presence isn’t like the typical autumn dinner, and nothing beats pumpkin pie with whipped cream and a cup of coffee. But let’s be honest, on the one day a year where it’s socially acceptable to binge on mashed potatoes and turkey while watching the game and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, there’s something that we subconsciously know but don’t actually recognize.
It’s actually hypocritical to celebrate Thanksgiving.
And it’s even worse that many of us know it. We all know that the origins of Thanksgiving date back to before even the Protestant Reformation, and it doesn’t seem at all controversial to sacrifice turkeys and stuff them with bread and serve them on a dinner table.
What makes us hypocrites is why we celebrate it.
Some of us don’t even know why we do it. It’s just a part of American culture, and over time, it became associated with the bright and sunny picture of pilgrims sharing dinner with the Native Americans, and it became more of an American holiday than a religious practice. And now it’s become a symbol of the autumnal holiday season.
But it wasn’t always what it is now. Wampanoag Indians shared a meal with Plymouth pilgrims at the time of the autumn harvest. But with every year that passed, the narrative of the bloody history between the colonists and conquistadores has become overshadowed by the overwhelming smell of a golden bird.
But we forget what we did to the Native Americans. We forget that we would chop off their limbs and force them to search for gold, and that we would slaughter them without a second thought, and steal their land, subjugate them to unspeakable tortures, fight men who threw sticks and stones with lead projectiles and explosives, leave lakes of blood and a trail of tears leading to nowhere, forever flowing through history without end, and while we feast we forget what it is that we did to innocent men and women who were damned simply because they had the audacity to exist. We eat not in their memory but to forget them, to bury a guilt that has been passed on by our ancestors, to hide the shame of being the descendants of those who brutally murdered Native Americans and left them without and pride, dignity, or a right to live.
Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday that celebrates something glorious. It hides the largest faults of those who helped establish this country. It suppresses the memory of those we condemned to lifetimes of suffering. The voices of Native Americans, who’ve suffered generations of war, blood, and death, wrought on by a solitude and starved by the inadequacies of the way the Europeans had treated them and with the sweet smell of a Thanksgiving feast, have now been silenced by the laughter of friends, family, and parades in New York that glorify a holiday that masks a multi-generational genocide with red wine and pumpkin pies.